Freedom Riders Welcomed to Little Rock, Arkansas 50 Years Later
1961 Freedom Riders Welcome in Little Rock 50 Years Later
It was a very hot day, and I had no money. I was still getting my neighbor's newspaper, after she was done with it.
On July 10, 2011, in The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. I read about an event that was slated to happen later that day. I was stopped, and it felt like a bolt of lightening went from the top of my head, and down into my hands while holding the paper.
On Sunday, July 10, 2011 at 2:00 p.m. the 1961 Freedom Riders would be celebrating the 50th Anniversary of one bus ride that came through Little Rock, AR fifty years earlier. The Freedom Riders, would travel through a maze of rights and disappointment, risking beatings and incarceration. The Freedom Riders would no longer just sit quietly in the back of buses, and would no longer accept having to go in the back entrances to businesses. The years of awaiting municipalities and States to adhere to the Constitution was not okay.
Thanks to the non-violent protests on the part of the Freedom Riders and their supporters, history would be changed, and the Constitutional rights of these People would finally be recognized.
Governor Beebe Proclaims Freedom Riders Day via Joyce ElliotClick thumbnail to view full-size
If Your Heart Burns for Equality and Justice...
The many who gathered together for this monumental and historic moment, did not let the triple digit heat keep them away. For those whose hearts burned with an urgency, for the fair and humane treatment of all humans, it was a small inconvenience.
Volunteers, the Gaines Street Missionary Baptist Church, Freedom Riders, Senators, and activists joined on the lawn of the State House Museum lawn, on Markham Avenue, across from Louisiana street, where 50 years earlier, these 10 were arrested for traveling on a Trailways Bus, into Little Rock, AR, and were promptly arrested for sitting in the "Whites only" section of the depot. This was 1961, it is recent history.
The Civil Rights Walk Ceremony Starts at the Old Statehouse Museum
Little Rock Arkansas Civil Rights WalkClick thumbnail to view full-size
Many Original Freedom Riders Attend This Historic Event
Being in the presence of the original Freedom Riders, was a feeling like being in the presence of saints. When the intentions and insistence of any person or people is set, nothing can stop them from victory.
Yes, brave men and women, thank you for going to war without more provision than the Document on Parchment which promised you the Right to be men and women equally; the same as anyone else. Thank you for coming to my City before me, and paving a way of civility and ethnic fairness. Thank yoi for holding to the knowledge, that We Will Overcome!
It is a good day in Little Rock, AR
Many of the Original Freedom Riders Lived to See This HonorClick thumbnail to view full-size
Holding the Commemoration at the Old Statehouse Museum...
It was ironic that this commemoration was held at the Old Statehouse Museum. The cannon, black, hot, and cannon balls stacked, would have been used against people of color, having the audacity to convene in this historic place.
Lilly was lucky, she sat on the ground next to the old fountain. It was in the shade, out of the way of volunteers, and all those who listened eagerly. The UALR Students who on July 10, 2011, became a part of a long civil rights march, were happy to let me snap their photos. They were sure that each person had all of the iced water, and or lemonade they needed to sustain during the program.
It was commendable that Senator Pryor, and others braved the event in dark blue suits. Like a tapestry coming together by the work of many, we were blessed with video messages from our Governor Beebe, and 42th President of the United States of North America, President Bill Clinton. Senator Joyce Elliott did the honors of making the Proclamation, that July 10 would now be "Freedom Riders Day".
In between speakers, Lilly could not help but look around, checking out the crowd, seeing the emotions and looks on faces. She spotted the Arkansas State Flag, which has not really been associated with Civil Rights, and ironically, a banner was hung against the Old Statehouse Museum, showing another history.
It was an important event in Arkansas History, and Lilly was glad to have been able to attend. Before leaving, Lilly made the walk, wanting to get each person their recognition. This is a step toward healing, and away from segregation which has plagued the Southern U.S. for centuries.
A Beautiful Gathering on a Very Hot DayClick thumbnail to view full-size
Diversity in Little Rock, Arkansas
Today, in Little Rock, ARkansas there are more steps to be taken down President Clinton Avenue (Markham Street - or First Street).
History has been revealed. Here in the Southern States of North America, we do not like having dirty laundry aired, but it is what it is. The time for healing has come, and the only way this can happen is by talking about it.
The historic Civil Rights blight on Arkansas has been the desegregation of Central High School, in Little Rock Arkansas, when 9 brave African American students (The Little Rock Nine) went against the State Guard, Governor Faubus, and hundreds of years of accepted segregation, to enter Central High School, and claim their right, to achieve an equal education, as they were promised in the U.S. Constitution.
Thanks to the work of Governor Beebe, and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, the truth of the struggle for equality and civil rights in Arkansas, is being shown. Finally, in 2011, those who were only named in the Little Rock news as criminals in 1961, are now heralded as heroes.
It is important that we remember history the way it happened. Our modern society is in danger of moving back instead of forward, but as you take your tour of Bill Clinton Avenue, downtown Little Rock, AR remember how long it took to overcome...and still working on it.
50th Anniversary of The Freedom Riders
© 2011 Lori J Latimer
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